Max Ernst (1891-1976) By Sheldon Kessel Max Ernst was the embodiment of twentieth century art, producing

work considered expressionist, dada-ist, surrealist, and modernist through his 84 years and 364 days of life. During his life, he aligned himself with a number of art scenes in Germany, France, and the United States while finding romance and inspiration in their members. It could be said that he found other artists work so inspiring that his own work often took on a quality of imitation. He also seemed to delight in changing his style from piece to piece, giving the totality of his work a disparate quality within short time frames. He was a man of constant change in his personal life a man of multiple wives, multiple countries, and multiple lives. He was born in Germany where he spent his youth. He attempted university study of philosophy, but dropped out and joined the military, serving in World War I. After the war, informed by his experience, he became a socialist pacifist and aligned himself with the dada movement where he met his first wife, Luise Straus. His early years of artistic output found him both imitating and innovating. While some of his early work is reminiscent of Picasso, Schwitters, and Dali, it was during his early artistic career that he brought the techniques of frottage and decalcomania to fine art. He also introduced his recurring bird theme, most obviously and notably in his 1921 work Birds . The Ernst legend of frottage recalls his memories of staring at the wood grain on his childhood bedroom floor, becoming entranced, and seeing birds in the pattern. He took a

pencil and made a rubbing of the pattern, found it fascinating, and introduced the technique to fine art in his early work. Just a few years after introducing the rubbing technique, he discovered its paint equivalent in decalcomania. Introducing birds to his art was Ernst s way of bringing his inner world out to his art a very surrealist thing to do. The legend of his seeing birds in wood grain was, supposedly, the genesis of his inner life the inner life of his alter-ego, animal familiar, bird he named Loplop. Birds became a constant recurring theme in his work from the 1920s through some of his final work in the early 1970s. His life became increasingly chaotic in the late 1920s through the 1940s and, it seems, his artistic output was fueled by this chaos. The decade beginning in 1930 was his most prolific and he began moving from painting to sculpture, and then to other forms of output such as notebooks of collage. In this time he married twice, was imprisoned, and moved first to France then to the United States in 1941. While in the United States, he married yet again, and lived on both East and West coasts through the 1940s. Beginning in the 1940s Ernst s output began to increase in sophistication but decrease in volume. His life settled down and he moved, with his American wife, to France where he died in 1976.

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